It seems peculiar that the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent centers not on Christ’s first coming, but his second. In all three liturgical years, the gospel passage is taken from the Olivet Discourse -- Jesus’ rather lengthy response to the eschatological curiosities of the disciples. But maybe that is not as peculiar as it seems.

In arresting prose, the synoptic writers report the Creator of all things privileging the disciples with secrets about end things. Interweaving predictions about the destruction of Jerusalem and His future return to earth, Jesus tells them of wars, famines, false Christs, and more. His purpose was not to shock or frighten them, but to prepare them -- and not just for the far-off events that provoked their curiosity.

Punctuating His revelations are warnings to be watchful, ready, and engaged in faithful service -- imperatives for God’s people in every age. But for the disciples those warnings had immediate relevance, which, like many times before, went unheeded.

For in a matter of hours, Jesus would be prostrate in the garden praying, while his disciples were sleeping; He would be hauled away by an angry mob, while His disciples fled in panic; He would be brought before a kangaroo court to be ridiculed, spat upon, and struck, while one of His closest intimates vehemently and repeatedly denied him; He would be scourged, marched to Golgotha, and nailed to the cross, while men who had been His constant companions cowered in an upper room, abandoning Him to His persecutors.

Incredibly, after three years at the feet of their Master, the disciples were no better prepared for the unfolding of prophetic history than they were at the beginning of their tutelage. And that should trigger a question for us: Are we prepared? Standing in history between the Incarnation and the Parousia, are we advancing his kingdom as we watch for His return?

Maybe, more to the point, are we even expecting His return? Given the 2000-year lapse, have His warnings slipped into the cluttered closets of our memory? Or, worse, has the delay eroded our confidence in His prophesy or, for that matter, in Him? C ontinue reading here.